Watch For Turtles [on DR Thursday]

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.” ~ Alan Watts

The ferns have returned. Last week they were sharp tendrils poking through the leaves and earth; little green aliens. A mere seven days later, they are over three feet tall, fern-flags unfurling.

Driving to our trail we saw a turtle crossing the road. Kerri whipped a u-turn and I jumped out of the car, picked it up, expedited its journey, moving it from the pavement to the grass. There’s something special about the turtles. Throughout March and April, while walking on our trail, we’d cross the bridge over the Des Plaines River, and look for the turtles’ return. The turtle in the road was our first sighting of the season. Later, on the bridge over the river, we saw a dozen. “They’re back!” she said and smiled.

Lately we’re given to walking the same trail. We’ve seen it change through several seasons. We followed our loop last week and I swear, this week, it’s an entirely different trail. The trees are flowering. The trillium are showing their purple.

I used to wonder how Emily Dickinson thrived looking at the same garden for years and years. How did she write such beautiful poetry with such a small window to the world? Now I know that her world was enormous and my question was too small.

“Hope is the thing with feathers…”

read Kerri’s blogpost about FERNS

iconic © 2010 david robinson

Attend [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.” ~Thomas Merton, Love and Living

I had an odd-thought-revelation as we drove into the parking lot of the Hospice Alliance. We were there to make a donation. In cleaning out the house, Kerri found several throw-blankets. She washed and freshened them, preparing them for donation. In a past life she was a volunteer at the Alliance and wanted the blankets to go where they would be the most useful, provide the most comfort.

My mom tells me that my dad’s last days were lovingly tended by amazing hospice caregivers. His passage was eased by their guidance and attention. In some small way, the blanket donation felt like a thank-you-note. I was not present in his final weeks and it brought me comfort knowing he was in the care of such extraordinary people.

And that was the seed of my odd-thought-revelation. As we pulled into the parking lot, on the first bright sunny day in weeks, I stepped out of the car and turned my face to the sun.

In the warmth I understood that we are all in hospice care. Our time is limited. Every single moment is precious. Every single moment is shared. We’d do better if we realized it. We’d do better if we attended to each other, to relieve pain and suffering, to pay attention to the quality of each and every life in our passing moment. In our tender and oh-so-temporary lives.

read Kerri’s blogpost about BLANKETS

See The Exact Center [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Kerri took this photograph a week ago. We’d set up our pop-up table in the middle of the woods. We had a small cooler with cheese and crackers, tabouli and chips and wine. It was cold. We needed to take off our gloves to eat a bit of our snack and then put them on again, fingertips stinging. Since she is a photography maven, I knew to stand back after setting up so she might take shots of our snack-laden table. She finished, sat, and then pointed her camera to the sky.

Despite what you see in the photo, the trees did not reach to a common center. That is an illusion. Perspective as taught in art school. The point of view of a lens. “Lookit!” she said, red fingertips holding the camera so I could see the image. “We must have found the exact center of the forest,” I thought and smiled.

I often feel like that these days. We must have found the center.

Last night, on an all-too-rare warm evening, we sat with friends on their deck. The Up North Gang. We ate dinner. We laughed. I had my first ever sip of salted caramel whiskey. Dessert as a drink. Time stood still for me and I studied the moment. I wondered if anyone on earth was as fortunate as Kerri and me.

Perspective as taught in art school. Points converge creating the illusion of distance. At one time in history, a crossroads of art and mathematics, this simple recognition was a revolution. Linear perspective. A unique point of view. The accurate portrayal of three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface was powerful – the creation of illusion, shape and distance, produced new intentions and mathematical rules.

It also changed forever the viewer. To see the illusion one must occupy the illusion of a unique center. A new psychology. It’s possible to draw a direct line of descendancy from the hard perspective of the Renaissance to our abstract expressionism. The artist’s point of view, unconscious expression without limit or rule, is all that matters. Two ends of the same pole.

I told Horatio that I am, at long last, learning to keep quiet. To share what I see when asked, and not before (he says as he writes a blogpost about what he sees). I have made a career out of too adamantly trying to get people to see what I see. My adamancy might be traced to the Renaissance and the notion that I occupy a unique center, a specific point of view that makes my illusion of shape and distance somehow privileged and necessary.

Age is helping me challenge and release my investments. It is also a grand teacher of movement and moments. Nothing stands still, especially time. The best we can do is savor the spaces between, always shifting and moving. Children become parents become grandparents. A warm night. A cold day on the trail. It matters less and less what I see and sense-make with my unique hard lines and more and more that I taste the tastes and see the colors, my lens aimed at a common center, sharing the passing moments with others.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE WOODS

Look Out The Window [on Two Artists Tuesday]

I came down the stairs, having just finished work for the day, and found her staring out of the bedroom window. “You have to come see this!” she said.

Atop John and Michele’s house, hundreds of birds, starlings, jockeying on the roof, taking turns diving into the gutters. And then, in heartbeat, the entire murmuration whirled as one into the sky. The visual impact of their singular launch nearly knocked us over.

And then, they were in the trees and swooping down to the pond. We ran to the sunroom where we could see the backyard. Dozens and dozens of birds and, we realized, not just starlings, great-tailed grackles were in the mix. The starlings, apparently late for a date or not willing to wrestle the grackles, swirled into the sky and disappeared, leaving the great-tails to enjoy the pond.

For a few moments it was like watching a bird ballet. The pulse of bird dancers, rising and falling in groups to the water, according to a symphony that we could not hear but could see in their choreography. And then, like the starlings, in a heartbeat, they were gone.

We looked at each other to confirm that we actually saw what we just saw. No dream or hallucination. It happened and we were lucky enough to look in the right direction at the right moment.

It’s not that it’s rare. This ballet happens all day, everyday. It’s rare that we are privy to the performance or are captured by the play happening around us.

“What if I hadn’t looked out the window?” Kerri asked.

read Kerri’s blogpost about STARLINGS AND GRACKLES

Create Something [on DR Thursday]

“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

I’m on a Vonnegut bender. Lately, I’ve fallen into his quotes and I think I’m about to re-read everything he wrote. Standing on the threshold of synesthesia, he submitted his master’s thesis in anthropology on the shapes of stories. It was rejected by “the committee” as being too simplistic, but embraced by the world after he achieved success as a writer. The man was as witty as Quinn and a definite stander-on-the-margins of society, reflecting back both its beauty and brutality.

Trapped in the amber of the moment. Gorgeous. And, standing at the center of the moment, all the explanations necessarily fall away. There is no “why” because there is no separation, no other place to be or person to become. The committee would reject the notion outright since committees are dedicated to explanations and justifications. The elevation of one idea above another. The writer, the artist, serves a different master. “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.” Yes, another Vonnegut quote. Create something. Soul growth rather than reasoning.

At the center of the moment there is no why. There is no space for puzzling-it-out. There is simply this: a rousing and rowdy “why not!” Blue sky. Tall grasses dancing. Feel it. All of it. No single explanation can possibly contain it.

read Kerri’s blogpost about GRASSES AND SKY

prayer of opposite © 2004 david robinson

Gaze At The Seam (on KS Friday)

Some things are hard to grasp. When that’s the case, it’s a good time to look at the sky. You’ll not find many explanations up there but gazing at the seam between us and the infinite-universe can, in moments of clenched fists, bring some perspective. As Kerri says, “It just keeps rolling.” No problem can remain large when measured against the seam, that fragile ozone layer that makes breathing and every current dilemma possible.

Sometimes when I look at the sky I wonder how many people across the ages have engaged in seam-gazing.

I imagine, one day in Kansas, 1932, as his fields turned to dust, a farmer looked to the sky. All his appeals for rain exhausted.

I can’t imagine how many women looked to the sky over the 100 years of protests and parades before being afforded the right to vote.

Can you imagine how many African-Americans looked to the sky as slaves in a nation that boasted to the world about its freedom and equality?

I look to the sky every time another state in the union passes legislation prohibiting discussions about our history, so fearful are we of critical race theory and the equality that we profess.

I find nothing in the seam that explains anything, but the clouds remind me that it just keeps rolling and, since I believe we tend toward wholeness, I catch a whiff of hope in all the blue and moving puffy white.

Someday, somewhere down the historic road, someone will look to the sky, in a post-nonsense era, and will, perhaps, imagine me staring back. To them, from their perspective, my unanswerable questions will have found resolve. They will have questions of their own, no doubt, but won’t it be nice to have a new set of questions to thrust at the seam?

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE SKY

Little By Little (©2022 Kerri Sherwood featuring Dogga)

Wag-A-Wag [on DR Thursday]

We call it his wag-a-wag. Dogga came to us with his tail docked, and as an exceptionally happy pooch, his stumpy little tail is often in full expression. He leaves no doubt about his anticipation and enthusiasm. Walk into a room and the wag-a-wag of the supposedly sleeping Dogga will start to flutter. “It would be so good for you to love on me!” And, the wag-a-wag is always right.

Sometimes it seems so simple, this art of living. If I had ten Academy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize or two that would be great, but I wouldn’t trade a single sweet moment with the wag-a-wag for a plaque to hang on my wall or a statue to put on my shelf. Don’t get me wrong, I’d delight in a degree of success, but I know at the end of the day, in my last few moments, I will treasure my life with the wag-a-wag, the mornings on the raft with the sun streaming in the window, drinking coffee, talking about the day, and Dogga rolling over just-within-reach (he’s an Aussie and has a spatial quirk) for his morning belly-belly.

It’s the rule of the wag-a-wag. Walk into the room and signal simple enthusiasm, an expectation of mutual generosity. Not only is it so good for me to love on you but it is so good for you to love on me. One-and-the-same-action.

read Kerri’s blog post about COZY

nap with dog-dog & babycat, 36×48, 2020

nap with dog-dog & babycat © 2020 david robinson

Turn Toward It [on KS Friday]

This is what he wrote. “The irony I feel is that the world is lost on the artistic temperament of these students.  They don’t seem awake to all that’s going on.” He’s directing teenage students in a play. He was my student thirty five years ago and reached out to me. We compared notes of the production I directed when he was a teenager, and the production he’s directing now. The world has changed mightily. His production will be viewed through a wholly different lens.

I flipped his phrase over in my mind. Artistry is to be awake to all that’s going on. And, awake is not a steady state. It’s not an arrival platform. It’s a relationship between the inner and the outer. What I know about that relationship is that sometimes you need to look away. His students have drilled for active shooters in the hall since they were in kindergarten. Mine couldn’t have imagined it. His students are navigating a pandemic, they’ve never known a world pre 9/11, they live in a country that is eating itself alive. My actors had easier access to what was going on. What was going on was closer in, more immediate and less abstract. They were not looking at a world-wide horror story or lost in the morass of social media. Cell phones were science fiction to my cast. My actors looked at each other and not at their screens.

Stories are about something. We just watched Erin Burnett’s interview with a Ukrainian husband who lost his wife and children to a Russian mortar attack. A month ago, violent death was nowhere on their radar. They were making dinner, going to school, doing homework, late for work. Erin Burnett began to cry and thank goodness. Humanity breaks through and we awake to what’s going on – really going on. We should all be weeping with Erin Burnett and this man.

Sometimes I feel as if I am looking for the small beautiful moments. I am trying to root my day in the explosion of color, the pastel sky, Dogga in the sun. Holding hands. Cooking dinner together. I am trying to be awake to what is going on, the anger and division and warmongering and carelessness as we soil our nest – without it frying my insides. Holding hands is just as real. Reaching toward our neighbors is also what’s going on.

Stories have to be about something and most often stories are about transcendence. Waking up to what is going on is less about waking up – we already know – and more about fully acknowledging it, facing the full picture and turning toward it rather than running away. But, before that final act, that moment of deciding enough-is-enough, before we are willing to blink open our eyes, we pretend the problem is non-existent or small. We ignore the obvious. 500 year storms every year. A family killed by a mortar shell. We bury our faces in our phones, we ban critical race theory, and toss our attention in a Twitter reality or a Tik-Tok diversion.

I wanted to write back and suggest that the world is not lost on the artistic temperament of his students, it’s simply too hard to look at the world so they are choosing to look away. That’s what their play will ultimately be about.

read Kerri’s blogpost about COLOR!!

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

the way home/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

With Fresh Eyes, See [on Merely A Thought Monday]

In retrospect, many of the experiences I used to facilitate were meant to pop people – even for a moment – out of the fog of their life story. It’s a curious intention for a guy whose career was/is centered around the telling of stories.

I loved working with masks, especially with people in corporate settings or lofty educational towers. They feared the exposure that a mask might bring so they approached it with eye rolling and whatever-ego resistance. Yet, in every case, they put the mask on with reverence. There is a sequence, after donning the mask, that the wearer “wakes up” and looks at the world for the first time through fresh eyes. Everything is new. Everything. Their hands. The movement of their arms. The color and feel of the carpet. Jaded people, blunted with puffy assumption, through the eyes of the mask, are astonished by the miracle of their fingers. And then, imagine the moment that they discover each other. Their discussion during the debrief would make you weep. It was quiet. Respectful to the point of sacred. In every case the people, newly out of the mask, had to tell of their astonishment and discovery. Their eyes wide with the utter beauty of the world in and around them. And, their new eyes never carried further than the next day. The old mask, the one worn daily, the one full of fear and inflated self-importance, is powerful, too. As they say, masks reveal and masks conceal.

Masks reveal and masks conceal. The phrase refers to the wearer but it also applies to the world seen or not seen through the mask. New eyes are astonished with the ubiquitous beauty of the world newly revealed. Eyes fogged through been-there-done-that stories are dulled to the point of inattention. The magical world is concealed from their sight.

I am working on a script for a piece that I’ll perform in the fall. I realized in my latest draft that it is really about masks. The astonishment of seeing – and seeing is nothing more than or less than the revelation of connectivity. Paying attention is a step toward the eyes that see crackling vibrant color, ears that hear the birdsong. When the dull eyes open, even for a moment, the next impulse is to reach, to “call attention” to the connectivity. “Do you see that?” “Listen, isn’t it gorgeous!”

read Kerri’s blog post about PAYING ATTENTION

Trip And Trip Again [on KS Friday]

One of the advantages of having stepped in every pothole, tripped on every cobble, and made every mistake at least twice, is that I’ve learned about potholes, cobbles, mistakes, tripping and stepping where I ought not step. If I could boil down to the essence the single thing I’m beginning to grok it is this: life is not elsewhere.

I laughed aloud when I at last I realized the absurdity of “practicing mindfulness” as if it was something to achieve. Mindfulness arrives when the practice stops. Of course. Meditating for self-improvement, I’ve read, is a uniquely Western oddity. “Trying” to be present is ridiculous if you think about it. You are present. What else? Because your mind is running amok does not actually magically transport you to the past or the future. You are present with a mind that is running amok. Minds are like puppies: chase them and they run away. Stand still and they will eventually come to you.

Is any of this pothole wisdom helpful? Absolutely not. Like mindfulness, wisdom arrives when the obsession with knowledge-for-betterment ceases. I’ll let you know what that looks like when I stop trying to attain it. There’s no end to the tripping stones. I’ve learned that, too. Again and again. And again.

The best things in life are not achievements. They are relationships. Me to you. Me to me. Me to the world I am passing through, one moment at a time. With you. Stand still in the moment – you might as well since it is where you are – and you’re libel to experience all manner of beauty.

read Kerri’s blog post about SNOWFLAKES

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

kindred spirits…away/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood